Saturday, August 26, 2017


In 1965, I spent a year teaching in the Washington, D.C. public school system.  For many reasons it  turned out to be pivotal in my life.  Having grown up in a lily white suburb of Chicago, it was my first time mingling with African American adults and children.

My "speech improvement"traveling program consisted of ten women, seven African American and three white women.  In addition, at each school I visited I would meet the resident speech teacher.  That person tended to be African American as well.

I was anxious to learn about the African American people and they turned out to be exceptional with fascinating stories.  One, the daughter of a mailman and a cleaning lady, went on to graduate school with me and then became CBS's first African American White House correspondent.  Another fellow speech teacher became a professional actress and I met up with her several years later when she was on tour with James Earl Jones for the play, The Great White Hope.

Anyway, my memory that I wish to share is about one day when many of us gathered in a cafeteria for a lunch of scrapple.  The women were anxious to introduce scrapple to me since I had mentioned to one of them that I had no idea what scrapple was.

It turns out that scrapple is some sort of cake made of innards that you mix together and fry.  Anything like this was foreign to me, although I do have to admit that my mother, a German, used to make creamed giblets.  I remember politely taking and bite or two and then reaching for the alternative choice of fare that had also been placed on the table, but I was proud of myself for trying something new that had always been a part of all of my associates' lives.

What I recall more was getting to know these smart, dynamic and dedicated women and hearing their stories.  Each one was unique and each one had a different view on life.  One was a strong advocate, one a materialist, one schmoozed with celebrities.  They were a great bunch of people and scrapple brought us all together to talk and visit and get to know each other.  Throughout the year the discussion would continue on in various forms, but it was our scrapple get-together that I remember most vividly.

In future blogs, I'm sure I'll have more to say about my year in D.C.  The point of the scrapple story is that neither my teaching associates nor myself had any uncomfortable feelings about one another even though we were from different backgrounds.  We were anxious to learn about each other and to share our differences.  We had open minds and yet we enjoyed sharing our personal stories.  Ah, if only that were true for the majority of our country.  It just seems so simple to me.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Fascists

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Fascists,

If I had a chance to meet with you, here are a few questions I'd like to ask you:

1)  What is your vision of the United States of America.

2)  Who should be an American citizen?

3)  How should the United States be governed? Who should be in charge?

4)  What should be done with all the multi-cultural people who do not fit into the white category?

5) Who are your heroes?  Who speaks for you? Why?

6) Explain clearly why you are opposed to the "elites," people who rely on past and present expert knowledge and opinions to help the US move forward?

7) How are you different from Isis? Or do you wish to be like Isis?

8) Do you really think you can go back in time?

9) Why do you like violence rather than talking?  

10)  What is the place of women in your philosophy?  You don't see many women in your movement.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Grandkids

For some reason I volunteered for my husband and I to take care of our two adorable grandsons, ages six and nine for a week up at our mountain home.  With only two weeks to go before school starts again, we thought it would be fun for them to have a relaxing week without too many demands.

I'm not sure why I decided to do this.  When we took the kids to the rodeo, we were the only grandparents solely accompanying children who were without their parents.  I think I've always been a martyr.  It's just part of my DNA.

It's not that it hasn't been wonderful.  It has been.  First, it gave our son and daughter-in-law a needed rest from their twenty-four hour job of taking care of their offspring and simultaneously working for a living.  Second, it gave my husband a chance to show his grandkids his business interests, i.e. what it's like to be a capitalist, something that they had no idea their "Papi" did.  And third, we got to be with them and enjoy on a day to day basis what makes them tick.  We got camp stories, friend stories, Mom and Dad thoughts and especially theirs.  We struggled with helping our youngest who's having a bit of trouble learning how to ride a bike and watched in amazement the proprietary ability of our oldest grandson to watch over his brother.  We played corn hole, made a home movie and went miniature golfing.  And, the two of us, now well into our seventies, drank a lot of wine and slept better than average each night.

Their parents come up today and will probably be a bit frustrated that they watched too much television, played on iPads constantly, ate only ice cream and pizza and went to bed at ten o'clock each night.

On our final solo night together we watched "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul" about a family where the second oldest son (I forget his name---I think it's Greg) rebels against the restrictions of his mother who only wants him to read books, learn and behave.  I absolute relate to this but for some reason always give in to the trends of the day.  I can't get them to like classical music, read the volumes of "Wizard of Oz" and say the Dinosaur Museum was their favorite activity.  Their parents actually do better at exposing them to their own tastes: "Hamilton," jazz, and "Choose Your Own Adventure."

I'm a big believer that as a grandparent I am just there to love my grandchildren and to hope that once in a while they might like my old songs like "Kiss is Sweeter Than Wine," and my old favorite stories like "Thumbelina."  Mostly it's about "Angry Birds" and "Star Wars."  And that's OK by me.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I'm Right!

I'm an old debate teacher.  I got an "A" in debate in college and I went on to teach high school students debate and to oversee competitive state speech contests.

I specifically recall one of my advanced public speaking classes where we were studying debate.  This was in the sixties in a rural community and they chose the subject of abortion before the Roe Vs. Wade decision in 1973.  I'm surprised I didn't get fired for allowing them to debate the subject.

So here were four girls, two for the proposition (what later after Roe V. Wade passed came to be called Pro Choice) and two against the proposition (what later came to be called Pro Life.)

The girls were all friends but they were all seriously engaged in the issue.  They gathered all kinds of facts and information for their presentation and collected all kinds of materials from various sources.  Of course, we had discussed what were facts and what were good sources to find them.  They had card catalogues full of statistics based on news and magazine articles, and excerpts from books by experts on the subject.  Since this was before the internet, Wikipedia and other websites were not included.  Most of their information came from libraries or from personal stories.

The rural town in which the class took place was known for its large number of premature pregnancies.  Though I'm short on facts, I do recall that a lot of girls did drop out of high school when they got pregnant.  Here's my first debate fallacy.  I am not supplying accurate numbers.  My report is anecdotal.

Anyway, the day came and the girls made their presentations in what turned out to be a very emotional 45 minutes.  The pro choice people built up a case using statistics to show how many women had died from illegal abortions and how gruesome some of these stories of how they died had been. Afterwards one of the girls who was pro choice read a graphic story of a woman who had had an illegal abortion and died, and then she rested her case.  For the pro life side, their argument was primarily based on the question of when life begins and whether or not a woman can decide this question.  There were quotes from all kinds of religious leaders.  When the students voted on who won, those on the pro choice side got the most votes.  One of the women on the pro life side broke down and cried.  My feeling is that she was just so frustrated in her belief that she was right but hadn't been able to convince her audience with facts and statistics that she was right.

Though today's times are quite different, the arguments for who is right continues to go on.  Some people go for facts and statistics and logic and some people skirt all that in favor of emotions and gut feelings.

In the very mercurial times that face us today, it's frustrating that some of us are so filled with strong feelings that are based only on how we were raised and the experiences we've had and not on a thoughtful exchange of ideas based on good and sound information to help us make better informed decisions.

I'm for examining in detail facts and statistics and taking in to account my own experiences to make my decisions.  I think I'm right.  Why can't others see my point of view?????